• Loddon Herald

Agricultural pioneers



TWO of colonial Victoria’s largest plough manufacturers had their beginnings in the Loddon.

They were pioneers who changed the agricultural landscape with inventions, mech-anical improvements and ability to grasp new business opportunities.

One was Daniel Harvey who will be featured in a future story.

This week, though, let’s explore the industry of William Gabriel Barger whose influence stretched from one end of the Loddon to the other before making its way to Melbourne.

The Barger story in a way starts with George Jenkins, born 1826, Buckinghamshire, England, who emigrated with his family in 1849.

Son Joseph settled at Bridgewater around 1877 and it was here that he formed a part-

nership with William Gabriel Barger, trading as Jenkins and Barger wheelwrights and ironmongers around 1880.

A branch was established at the fledgling township of Leichardt and was still operating in December 1887.

In the meantime, the partnership was manufacturing ploughs, wire strainers, the Excelsior treeextractor, wagons, carts and other farm machinery.

They exhibited around the various agricultural and pastoral shows - Sandhurst (Bendigo), Pyramid Hill, Kerang, Charlton and Boort, - being awarded a number of prizes including many at the North Western Agricultural Show held at Inglewood.

The Inglewood showcase was originally the Newbridge Agricultural and Horticultural Show, considered by many as the biggest and best show outside the Royal Melbourne Show

Newbridge amalgamated with the nearby Bridgewater and Inglewood shows.

Jenkins and Barger applied for a patent for improvements in the construction of scarifiers, No.4967, on March 8, 1887.

As the business had grown considerably, a second branch was established in Boort, described as being south of and behind Godfrey Street.

Barger, a Justice of the Peace, was a prominent member of the Bridgewater community, a provisional director of Bridgewater Valley Mining Co on October 2, 1883, a minister and the business manager for the partnership.

However the township was rocked on January 8, 1892, when he was arrested on five charges of forgery to which he was jailed for 18 months on two of the charges, to be served concurrently.

In the meantime, a stock in trade auction was held on February 22.

A new factory was built opposite the railway station in Boort in October 1893.

The partnership of Jenkins and Barger was dissolved on June 20, 1894, at which time Jenkins took control of the Bridgewater branch while Barger was to continue in business at Boort.

It was not long before Barger applied for a patent for improvements in disc harrows, No 11490 lodged in August 1894 and a lift disc or jump harrow or cultivator No. 13264, in August 1896.

These were the first of more than 30 patents, along with the trademark Lightning in 1896.

Barger had relocated his business to 231 Franklin Street, West Melbourne by April 1900.

The business was trading as the Soho Disc Factory by 1905.

As the business grew rapidly it expanded along Franklin Street.

By 1906, Barger had released his combination disc plough and cultivator, an adjustable three-furrow disc plough and a one-horse hillside reversible plough.

It was not long before the business was trading as Barger and Son.

Barger supported Hugh Victor McKay, Sunshine Harvester Works, over non-union labour, his factory was also subjected to picket lines, until the now famous Harvester Decision was handed down.

As Barger was experiencing health problems son Clarence took control of the business and as the Great Depression hit, sold all the patents to H.V. McKay Massey Harris Pty Ltd in 1930

Barger and Co. was wound up the following year.

Barger mainly concentrated on manufacturing disc ploughs, some being known as Tiger, MalleeKing, Lightning and Dot, a reversible disc plough, a tussock cutting a general purpose cultivator to the design of Harry Cortney Fox

The factory also made harrows, hay stack ladders, seedsowers, lucerne cultivators, spanners, wagons, carts, maize cutters and rollers, whilst is also sold Federal winnowers and Federal horseworks, this brand being manufactured by the nearby factory of T. Robinson & Co.

Ken Arnold is a local historian and author

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